The disease made me a better, stronger person—and inspired me to launch my own tea company.

By By Susan Parnell as told to Rebecca Dancer
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I vividly remember my first Lyme symptom. It was June 2013 and I was on vacation in Alabama visiting family. One morning, I woke up with an incredibly stiff neck, so stiff that I couldn't touch my chin down to my chest, and other cold-like symptoms, like fatigue and a headache. I dismissed it as a virus or something I had picked up on the airplane and waited it out. After 10 days or so, everything totally cleared up.

But over the next few months, odd symptoms would come and go. I would take my kids swimming and not be able to kick my legs underwater because my hip joints were in so much pain. Or I'd wake up in the middle of the night with severe foot pain. I didn't see a doctor because I didn't even know how to piece all my symptoms together.

Then by early fall, cognitive symptoms started coming and going. Mentally, I felt like I had dementia. I would be in the middle of a sentence and start stuttering over my words. One of my most defining moments was after dropping my kids off at preschool one morning, just a mile from my house. I got out of my car and didn't know where I was or how to get home. Another time, I couldn't find my car in the parking lot. I asked my son, "Honey, do you see Mommy's car?" "It's right in front of you," he answered. But still, I dismissed it as brain fog.

Photo: Susan Parnell

One evening I started typing all my symptoms into Google. Lyme disease kept popping up. I broke down in tears to my husband. How could this be? I had been healthy my whole life.

The symptom that finally got me to the doctor was severe heart palpitations that made me feel like I was having a heart attack. But a blood test at urgent care the next morning came back negative for Lyme disease. (Related: I Trusted My Gut Over My Doctor-and It Saved Me from Lyme Disease)

As I continued my own research online, poring over Lyme message boards, I learned how difficult it was to get diagnosed, mostly due to inadequate testing. I found what's called a Lyme literate doctor (LLMD)-a term that refers to any type of doctor who is knowledgeable about Lyme and understands how to diagnose and treat it effectively-who only charged $500 for an initial visit (not covered by insurance at all), whereas most doctors charge thousands.

The LLMD confirmed that I had Lyme disease through a specialized blood test, as well as anaplasmosis, one of the many co-infections that ticks can pass along with Lyme. Unfortunately, after I underwent two months of treatment-taking antibiotics without any results-the LLMD told me "there is nothing more I can do for you." (Related: What's the Deal with Chronic Lyme Disease?)

I was hopeless and scared. I had two young kids who needed their mom and a husband who was traveling the world for his job. But I kept digging into research and learning as much as I could. I learned that treatment for Lyme disease and even the proper jargon to describe the disease is highly controversial. Doctors are in disagreement about the nature of Lyme disease symptoms, making adequate treatment difficult to find for many patients. Those who don't have the means to afford or accessibility to an LLMD or Lyme educated doctor can really struggle to reclaim their health.

So I took matters into my own hands and became my own advocate, turning to nature when it seemed I had run out of conventional medical options. I discovered many holistic approaches to controlling the symptoms of Lyme disease, including herbal remedies. Over time, I gained enough knowledge about how herbs and teas helped my symptoms that I started creating my own tea blends and started a blog. If I was struggling with brain fog and lacking mental clarity, I would create a tea blend with ginkgo biloba and white tea; if I was lacking energy, I would target a tea with a higher caffeine content, such as yerba mate. Over time, I created many of my own recipes designed to help me get through my days.

Photo: Susan Parnell

Eventually, through a reference from a friend, I found an infectious disease doctor who specialized in internal medicine. I made an appointment, and soon after that I started new antibiotics. [Editor's Note: Antibiotics are typically the first course of action in treating Lyme disease, but there are many different kinds and lots of debate among doctors about how to treat the disease]. This doctor was in support of me continuing my tea/herbal protocol in addition to the high-powered antibiotics he prescribed. The three (antibiotics, herbs, and tea) did the trick. After 18 months of intensive treatment, I was in remission.

To this day, I say tea saved my life and helped me get through each grueling day as I battled to heal my broken immune system and severe exhaustion. That's why, in June of 2016, I launched Wild Leaf Teas. The purpose of our tea blends is to help people live life to the fullest. If you lead an active lifestyle, you're going to hit bumps along the way. But by taking care of our bodies and our health, we are better prepared to handle the stress and chaos.

That's where tea comes in. Feeling low energy? Drink yerba mate or green tea. Brain fog bogging you down? Pour yourself a cup of lemongrass, coriander, and mint tea.

Lyme disease was a life changer for me. It taught me the true value of health. Without your health, you don't have anything. My own Lyme treatment inspired a new passion within myself and pushed me to share my passion with others. Wild Leaf has been the focus of my post-Lyme life and it has also been the most rewarding job I've ever had. I've always been an optimistic person for as long as I can remember. I believe this optimism is one factor that drove my determination, which helped me reach remission. It is also this optimism that allows me to feel blessed for the struggles Lyme brought into my life.

Because of Lyme, I am stronger mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Every day is an adventure and I am so grateful that Lyme has opened this door for me.

Comments (2)

Anonymous
September 21, 2018
I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with Lyme disease after three months of flu-like symptoms and severe knee and foot pain. Finally, after several tests and an expensive MRI, I was diagnosed. I was put on doxycycline and had a severe reaction to that, so then they put me on a different medication. My pain still didn’t go away for good. I still had bouts of pain and fatigue that last weeks. I was seeking something to help regain my life to be able to do things for myself. Through my primary physician i learnt about a Lyme disease herbal formula from NATURAL HERBAL GARDENS and their success rate with the treatment, i immediately started on the Lyme disease herbal protocol, I am glad to report the herbal formula worked effectively and there was no side effects, I had a total decline in symptoms, the pains, chronic fatigue and other symptoms stopped, my Lyme disease is totally REVERSED, Here is a link to the website we ordered from ww w.naturalherbalgardens.c om This Herbal Protocol is Incredible!!
Anonymous
March 23, 2018
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2004. I was given antibiotics, which seemed to help. However, I still suffer from some of the symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems in controlling hand and leg movements. The inability to walk right etc, are temporary and generally happen when I am really tired and have been working hard. I lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I Went off the antibiotics (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started on Lyme disease natural herbal formula I ordered from GREEN HOUSE HERBAL CLINIC, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, my symptoms totally declined over a 6 weeks use of the Green House Lyme disease natural herbal formula. I’m 70 now and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website www . Greenhouseherbalclinic . com) I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. I can now go about my daily activities and the pain is greatly diminished. Don't give up hope, fellow sufferers. Share with friends!!